Say Goodbye To ‘Old Regret’

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I recently overheard someone say, ‘that failure is never so frightening as regret’. I could suffer failing time and time again. I could bear the thought of attempting a thousand times and not quite making it. I could also endure coming short a million times a million. But one thing that I could never abide. And that is to look back at a life where I failed to even step from the shore, or was so stricken with fear that I could never move from my own secure space to at least try. That would be a living hell, too unbearable to even contemplate.” – Peter Sinclair

At my age, you start to notice one thing about your peers, and that is that a lot of them are living lives filled with ‘old regret’, as I call it.

This was particularly highlighted to me recently when I came across a Website whose whole purpose is to link old school buddies.

As I perused many of the summaries of my fellow classmates, that they had written personally, it became very evident that the vast majority, who had had huge dreams as young people, had somehow found themselves with lives that were less than they imagined and certainly not beyond their wildest dreams.

Many had been retrenched, experienced the pain of divorce or business failure, and the fact was that many of them seemed to be living lives filled with ‘old regret’.

Others had soared to the heights of successful living in their twenties and thirties before hitting a plateau.

Plateaus are those times in your life where you stand at the peak of your performance, and as you start to look around you can be deceived that there are no further challenges for you to conquer. Your use-by-date even appears to be up.

That can be a lonely place, and it was obvious that they had failed to plan for what was to happen after reaching their point of success.

Success should always be a journey rather than just a destination. Journeys never end, whereas destinations are destined to put an end to your forward progress.

It was a cold winter’s night and we had just moved into our first home. My wife’s aunt had come to visit us for the day and we’d all been out for the evening. Lorna, now in her 70’s, had had a constant battle with asthma and we all knew that she hadn’t been well that day. Although she probably should have stayed home, she was determined, in her usual enthusiastic manner, to come and be a part of whatever was going on at the time.

The drama all began when, on arriving back home, we all bundled out of our cars and made a quick escape from the cold night air. It wasn’t very long before we noticed that Lorna hadn’t come in with us. A quick look for her unveiled the fact that she was experiencing extreme difficulty in catching her breath. We helped her in from the cold and sat her down on the piano stool which was situated close to the back door. All I can remember is that Shelley was holding and comforting Lorna as she struggled to operate her puffer. Unfortunately she had left it too late as she struggled to get even the smallest of breaths.

WE FAILED TO NOTICE THAT SHE HAD BLACKED OUT

With our eyes totally focussed on the puffer, we failed to notice that she had blacked out. It was only as her body began to slump to the floor that we realised what was happening. I quickly grabbed her and lay her on the floor, while Shelley ran to the phone to call an ambulance. Our children started to cry, while a friend who had accompanied us home, started to pray hard and loud.

I was only a young boy when I first took a course in First-Aid. In that course we had learnt how to do mouth-to-mouth resuscitation. I had only ever practised on a dummy, and yet I knew that now was going to be the test of my life as I ensured that Lorna’s air passage was clear and that I had positioned her in a way that would keep it open.

THE AMBULANCE COULDN’T WORK OUT HOW TO GET TO OUR STREET

It is amazing what one can do when an emergency calls for our immediate action. And although my knowledge was extremely limited and outdated, I started to give Lorna mouth-to-mouth as she lay unconscious on our living room floor. I can’t recall anything else that was going on around me as I continued to breathe life into her lifeless form.

It was only later on that Shelley was able to tell me of the frantic attempts made by the ambulance driver to try and find our house. As it was in a brand new estate, there were still very few houses to be found in the area. At one point the ambulance was driven into an adjoining street, and although Shelley could see them, and they could hear her cries for help, they couldn’t work out how to get through to our street.

At one point they tried to drive up a walkway, normally used by pedestrians, which connected two streets. On realising that they weren’t getting anywhere fast, Shelley suggested that they should drive across the open ground to our house. There was an abundance of sharp building materials lying on the ground and as it was in the middle of the night, the driver refused. So back they went, the way they had come, until they reached yet another dead end. Finally, they drove up another pedestrian laneway that happened to connect to our street.

While all this confusion was going on I was still puffing away with all my might to keep air pumping through Lorna’s system. I didn’t know whether it was going to save her or not, but I wasn’t stopping until help arrived. During all this time Lorna hadn’t regained consciousness and I couldn’t tell if she had started to breathe again. All I knew was that I had to keep her alive.

FINALLY THE PARAMEDICS ARRIVED

Finally, the two paramedics burst through the door with all their equipment. They cut her clothes and began to treat her. We all awaited anxiously as they pumped away on her chest. Suddenly she began to breathe.

By now the children had settled down and I stood to the side, shaking from head to toe, as I watched the professionals work swiftly and effectively to stabilise her condition and to prepare her for hospitalisation.

I had two choices that night; to either take action eventhough I didn’t have all the expertise to perform the task of keeping someone alive, or to take no action at all and live with the regret that Lorna had died before her time.

So how can you say a final goodbye to ‘old regret’?

1. LEARN FROM THE PAST

Use whatever knowledge you have acquired over the years. What you already know will probably be enough.

2. LIVE FOR THE PRESENT

Take action NOW. Now is the time to do what needs to be done. So DO IT NOW.

3. PLAN FOR THE FUTURE

Plan to live long and live well. Dream BIG dreams and pursue them. Set goals in the present so that you can fulfil them in the future.

The day that Lorna was placed in the back of the ambulance, and then recovered in hospital, was a day we all rejoiced. Though she was seemingly dead, she came back to life and lived and laughed with us for yet another two years.

The lesson learnt?

TO TRY IS FAR BETTER THAN TO NEVER TRY AT ALL

My wife has since informed me, having recently completed a First-Aid course herself, that I did just about everything wrong that night. But the fact remains. Lorna lived. By huffing and puffing into her mouth I had prolonged her life, just long enough before help arrived.

When I finally got to speak to Lorna at her hospital bedside later that night, I asked her, ‘Hey Lorna, do you know how lucky you are? I’ve never kissed a young girl so much in my whole life.

What a wonderful thing it was to hear her laughter again.

I have no regrets.

Motivational Memo: Live your life without regret. You won’t regret it.

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